Song and Silence.
The Star Spangled Banner. The first time I was privileged to sing it to open an Aquasox home game in Everett was a balmy, early summer evening a couple three years back. One of those evenings where the daylight is long and luxurious and being outdoors in it at a baseball game brings out the camaraderie in people. People who’d look right past you while walking on the street, actually greet you as they climb the stairs in the stands, the metal slats rattling as they ascend.
As game time grew closer, kids darted back and forth, smells of profoundly buttered popcorn and sausage pizza swirled between the pillars under the stands, loudspeakers vibrated out sponsor trivia, laughter and jovial voices overlapped each other, weaving a net of anticipation over us all. Yup, it was all there.
Game time was nearing. A cheerful young man, early-twenties, walked me out onto the field and showed me where to stand. He seemed completely at ease marching around in front of hundreds of people.
“Here, I think it’s on.”
I reached out and took the cordless microphone. “That’d be good.”
He grinned like that was the cleverest thing he’d heard all week.
As I stood there gripping the mic in my right hand, trying to hold the starting note in my head, I heard the stands creaking, clusters of voices rolling over one another, balls punching into mitts, horns honking, traffic out on the street, joyous yelps of children, food vendors hawking ice cream bars, and the announcer enjoining people to get season tickets. Then he paused.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for our national anthem.”
A wind of scuffling and stomping whooshed over the stadium as people rose; hundreds of programs, sandwich wrappers, and candy bags shuffled as everyone stood.
Then silence. Complete silence, as if some giant hand had pulled a blanket up over us and turned out the light. The baseball teams each lined up in front of their dug outs, hands folded behind their backs. The crowd in the stands all gazed up at the flag. The loudspeakers were silent.
Whatever people’s thoughts or politics were, whatever they had been doing two minutes before, whatever they wanted to do later that night, there was quiet throughout the ball park. Over two thousand people together for those few moments. It was a quiet filled with a sense of community and respect. The stillness seemed to surround and enclose all of us. I was mesmerized by the beauty of that silence and the wholeness I felt in those moments.
Then I remembered, “Mary, they’re all waiting. For you. Now would be good.”
I sang. As I reached the last word, the cheers exploded like a bouquet of fireworks, radiant and expectant. I floated on the exuberance of those two minutes as I returned the microphone to the young man and walked off the field.
Yet, what I remember most is that feeling of being with everyone in that stadium for those few moments of shared, intentional quiet. That brief span of silence as we all held our breaths, and our hearts, together.